Becoming an Employer of Choice

“A successful team is a group of many hands, but of one mind”, Bill Bethel

This month we’ve been thinking about the importance of teamwork, and particularly the role that trust plays in shaping it. You can’t buy or boss your way into building a great team. For any team to be successful, the individuals in it have to want to be part of it, buy into its purpose and feel motivated to drive towards its objectives. As a business owner, team leader or manager, how you make people feel whilst they are at work is one of the most important things to get right.

For any veterinary business to be successful, talented, professional and caring people must be recruited and retained. They must not only meet the practical requirements to undertake their roles, but must also share the practice’s approach to caring for animals and their owners. Each person in the team needs to feel that they are working with principles that have value, and that they play a key role in achieving them. In short, every single person working in your practice feels that they themselves are valued and that they matter. (Don’t just take our word for it, have a read of ‘Drive’ by Daniel Pink and you’ll see how vital it is for employees to have autonomy, mastery and purpose if they are to feel engaged and motivated.)

Becoming an employer of choice
In last month's blog we looked at the importance of Word of Mouth in bringing in new clients. It is just as important in attracting great people to your team. The veterinary network is broad and efficient, and with so many active Facebook groups and forums word soon spreads as to where the good practices are, as well as which ones might be avoided. Students in particular share their experiences online with peers – we often see stories of poor attitudes and behaviours towards those on EMS placements, and of course today’s students are our colleagues of tomorrow. If they don’t want to work with a practice where they had a bad experience and tell others not to either, no amount of fancy adverts and benefit packages will fill its vacancies in future.

Practices that have great employer branding often don’t need to advertise – they get sent speculative CVs by vets and nurses who want to work there. They follow the practice on social media and know how it would feel to work there. They can see the practice ethos shining through every communication, and they know of several people who have first-hand knowledge of how supportive the team is.

Ensuring good leavers
Of course, even the strongest teams will have people leave – house moves, retirement, ill health and parental leave are all part of life. Great managers hold exit interviews in order to understand if things can be further improved. Good leavers stay in touch with their colleagues and tell others how fantastic the practice and team are. That all-important Word of Mouth again.

Meaningful recognition
One of the most important things you can do to make people feel valued is tell them when they’ve done well. Daily and publicly. Notice where someone has gone the extra mile for a client, helped out a colleague or achieved something new, then make a point of telling that person you have seen it and appreciated it. Pizzas for the team on a Friday can feel a bit like a universal box ticking, whereas telling the new receptionist that she did really well diffusing a potential issue with Mrs Smith shows that their specific effort has been acknowledged. They feel valued. They see that they matter.

What gets measured gets better
Giving people the chance to feedback honestly and without fear of retribution is a really effective way to build trust and strengthen a team. We recommend a twice-yearly survey, exploring engagement levels and collecting suggestions for how to improve. Don’t be tempted to do this more frequently, as you’ll just annoy everyone!

Onswitch’s TeamTrack is a great way to get robust feedback across four key areas:

1. Twelve questions measuring engagement across a spectrum of parameters

Gallup 12

2. ‘Three words’ that best describe how the practice cares for clients and patients, how it approaches medicine, and how they would describe the workplace to friends and professional colleagues. Answers are represented visually in word clouds to allow themes to stand out

3. Start / Stop, Do more / Do less - collecting detailed suggestions but also highlighting where there are common threads. This makes it easier for managers and team leaders to prioritise actions

4. Team Experience (Tx) Score, inspired by the internationally-recognised tool Net Promoter Score. We ask people how likely they are to recommend their workplace to professional colleagues. The target is a score of 50 or more, with the best teams rating 80+. Sadly it is not uncommon to see teams struggling with negative scores

TeamTrack pricing depends on the size of your team, ranging from £750 +VAT up to £1,000 +VAT. A small price to pay when it helps you retain great people and attract more - click here to get started.